Friday, December 30, 2011

Cheers to 2012 GP Style!

Just because alcohol is not on the GP diet, that doesn't mean we can't celebrate the New Year with a festive drink.  I've been through the misery of feeling sorry for myself as I watch everyone else drink cocktails, wanting nothing more than to be part of the celebration.  Don't get me wrong, there have been moments of weakness when I give in and have a drink.  However, to this day, it has never been worth the pain afterwards.  What I came to finally realize is nobody really cares whether I drink or not, it's all about my own attitude.  When I'm confident, enjoying the company and festivities, everything else is forgotten and suddenly I am a part of the celebration.  

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Out With the Old, In With the New

This morning I woke up with a feeling of grief, a mourning for Christmas past.  After a deep sigh I thought about recent advice from a mentor.  I would permit myself 10 minutes to feel this sadness, to pout and complain, then take a deep breath and move on with my day.  Surprisingly, this time did more for me than just allow sadness.  It allowed me to meditate on what I once had and to appreciate what life has to offer me today.

You see, like so many of us, I grew up with a tradition centered around the annual holiday meal.  I remember the smell of frost in the air as we packed up the car with presents on Christmas eve, heading to Grandma's house filled with cousins, aunts and uncles, and warm, fuzzy feelings.  Frank Sinatra's Christmas tunes echoed on the record player and us children surrounded the tree, touching and shaking each present for any clue that might give away the secret gift wrapped up inside.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Holiday Gingerbread Cookies

The words ginger and cookie mixed together in the same recipe is music to my ears (currently Christmas music of course)!  Though I keep sugar to a minimum most of the time I can't help but to get in the holiday spirit of baking.  I just finished making a gluten free batch and want to share a couple of recipes for anyone wanting a tasty gingery treat.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

To Smile or Not to Smile

The robbed that smiles, steals something from the thief.  ~William Shakespeare, Othello

When we don't feel good is it better to smile and pretend everything is OK?  Are we better off telling ourselves to ignore the pain so that we can get through the day?  And, is it better for those around us to believe the pain isn't there in order to lessen their worry?

I tend to be a positive person.  Someone, who according to others, is "strong, brave, and inspiring."  How is this brave, I ask, when I don't really have a choice?  I suppose lying in bed all day is an option but that paves a road to misery both for myself and everyone I love.  If fact, the craziest part about this disease is it's ability to attack on both ends of the scale.  One being the wrong food or too much of it, the other being no food at all.  I've seen others spiral down this path.  Staying in bed and not eating ends up causing so much pain and sickness they end up in the hospital.  Loads of sedatives and pain killers temporarily numb the pain until back in bed again to further continue this destructive cycle.

Me, I would rather face the beast head on.

So, most days I greet those around me with a smile.  In response I'm told how much healthier I look and how happy they are to see that I'm feeling better.  This can go two ways and the outcome is not always predictable.  I can put on the smile despite not feeling well and the action itself creates a positive vibe that overcomes the discomfort.  When others see this and respond positively, it feeds the feel good energy even more.   Or, the smile makes me even more exhausted and angry at the end of the day because no one understands this "invisible" illness that screams within.

Which brings us back to the original question.  Does it do any good for others around us to understand and witness this pain or is it better to live by "ignorance is bliss?"  I'm not sure there is a right or wrong answer.  I do believe in not tipping the scale and finding balance.  In other words not doing one or the other full time.  If I decide to put on that smile, I'll hope for the positive outcome but also respect my boundaries and let others know if I'm not feeling 100%.  For example, when getting together with friends, I'm not always sure if I can make it to every store or stay for dessert.  At least I get some quality time in without the expectation or disappointment when its necessary to go home and rest.  This way I don't go from my feel great, energetic self, directly to being tired and misunderstood.  I find I have more energy when I'm not worried about telling everyone when its time to go.

As Paulo Coelho states above, use that struggle, that pain to find strength, and don't be afraid to share this occasionally.  The good friends and family in our life might appreciate it more than we think.

I want to leave you with one last quote, author unknown.

"Strength does not come from winning.  Your struggles develop your strength.  When you go through hardship and decide not to surrender, that is strength."

A simple smile might just be strength in action.
: )

Check out this video on the "Hidden Power of Smiling"

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Under the Weather Yet Overly Thankful

"Do what you can, with what you have, where you are."
Theodore Roosevelt

This is my husband Trevor's daily advice, in so many words.  When I read it today on my daily quote page it could not feel more true.  It is Thanksgiving Eve and instead of being on the road to Idaho to spend time with family, I'm home dealing with a chest cold.  As if having GP around the holidays isn't challenging enough.  Interesting, I've been able to avoid getting sick the last year despite going through severe weight loss, stress and multiple hospital procedures.  Now, when I'm finally starting to gain weight and feel better, the terrible bug going around finds its way in, ugh!

Monday, November 14, 2011

Bone Broth Brings Relief and Nourishment

"Chicken soup...heals the nerves, improves digestion, reduces allergies, relaxes and gives strength."
-Hanna Kroeger, Ageless Remedies from Mother's Kitchen

Since my digestive problems began so many years ago I have tried everything under the sun.  You name it, from medications to meditation, Vitamix to vitamins, supplements to smoothies, prayers to purees, acupuncture to acupressure, yoga to yogurt, and finally denial to dying of starvation.  Some friends, some enemies, yet all have been a part of the journey finding some light in this long and narrow digestive tunnel.

Recently, I decided to take a step back and "simmer" down to the basics, pun intended!
Today, I am going to take us a few steps beyond chicken soup.  Packaged broth might be good for flavor but does not contribute any nutrition.  I want to talk about why I believe my recent journey with long-simmered stocks can be an essential part of our diet, nourishing not only to the soul but our entire being.  For centuries, cultures all over the world have used this basic remedy to cure hundreds of diseases and ailments.  As they say, it's grandma's penicillin.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Could FODMAPs be related to GP?

A few months ago this strange acronym meant nothing to me and could have referred to some foreign language for all I knew.  My first introduction was when a doctor in Seattle mentioned the possibility of fructose intolerance after discussing the symptoms of gastroparesis.  I did a bit of research but was going downhill fast with my weight and forgot about it after being distracted with the placement of the feeding tube.  During this time, my good friend studying nutrition insisted I try it out but I felt too overwhelmed to even think about it.
Recently, however, it seems to be popping up everywhere and I'm getting more and more information that justifies a significant link to IBS (which many doctors are now considering), that are also similar to the main symptoms of GP.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Update: Tube Replacement

It has been 3 months since having the J tube placed in August.  If you don't know from previous posts, my tube had a bit of a malfunction starting the day after it was put in.  A small pin hole barely seen by the eye was discovered when I went to flush the tube out.  Instead of flowing through easily it clogged and squirted out the side.  Since then the doctors had me wrap special tape around it, which, ghetto as it may have looked, has for the most part worked.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Birthday Blessing From a Special Six Year Old Friend

A few weeks ago on Saturday, October 8th, I turned 31.  It seems so unreal and would have never in a million years guessed I would be taking time off work and school to be on a feeding tube and deal with a serious medical condition.  However, anyone who spends any time with me knows I have a pretty positive attitude and for the most part hide any pain or frustrations.    The reality is, however, everyday, hour and sometimes  moments feel challenging.  Some days I don't answer the phone or see anyone because the thought of trying to be "normal" is overwhelming.  Don't get me wrong, there are enough good moments, hours, even days to be thankful for.  And this year, my birthday, though challenging, shone through with the voice of a special young girl named Kaia.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Coconut Oil: Nutritional, Medicinal and Easy to Digest

Coconut Oil...just the thought of this or any oil for that matter used to put me in panic mode, fearful of the painful consequences they can have on our sensitive and slow moving stomachs.  However, my good friend Kinsey and her mega-researching began to convince me otherwise when it came to this nutritional and medicinal fat.
If you can bare with me through a bit of science jib jab I can explain.  Coconut oil is unique from all other fats and oils because of how it is digested and metabolized.  All fats are broken down into fat molecules known as fatty acids which are further classified by their length.  There are short-chain, medium-chain (MCFAs) and long-chain fatty acids (LCFAs).  When joined with another molecule called glycerol they form tryglycerides and MCFAs become MCTs, long-chain LCTs.  Most fats in our diet include LCTs such as soybean, corn, canola and olive oils.  Coconut oil is made up of MCTs which contain the caprylic, capric and lauric acids responsible for the antiviral, antibacterial, antifungal and antimicrobial properties.  Some of us with idiopathic gastroparesis are told it was possibly caused by a virus of some sort in which case coconut oil could be beneficial.  For those with diabetic GP read further.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Update: Infection, Antibiotics and Recovery

I have been on hiatus since my last post due to a number of reasons but mainly to the infection that came up around my tube insertion.  Back in July when my doctors insisted on me getting the feeding tube in order to put some healthy weight back on, infection was my biggest fear.  Luckily, this one wasn't so bad.  It took me on a trip to the ER over the weekend the moment I saw the redness spreading out, taking care of it before taking a dive for the worse.  I was given an IV antibiotic right away and a week of take home antibiotics.

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Spice Remedies Part 1: Cardamom Cures and Recipes

Most of us are well aware of the benefits of ginger for GP and nausea but how many know about one of my favorite spices, cardamom?
I was first introduced to this exotic aromatic spice when my dear friend Alan would serve a small cup of coffee with a pinch of cardamom after a delicious GP friendly lunch of well cooked local vegetables and soft melt in your mouth white fish drizzled with a tiny bit of olive oil.  Only if I could hire him to be my personal chef, everyday I would be swimming in waves of tasty adventures!
When I was in acupuncture school this past year I picked up a little bit of an addiction to coffee (hey, it's Seattle, whats a girl gonna do?!).  I know, absolutely NOT a friend to a sensitive stomach but between living in denial and the hours of studying it was my weak spot.  My favorite day of the week was Thursday when my friend Marlee and I would head down to our favorite coffee shop in Freemont.  We would find the largest table available, spread out our piles of books and note cards then anxiously order our hot java (aka liquid crack).  However, with me and my secret spice stash it was never just a normal cup of coffee.  Oh no, this was special coffee because hidden in my purse was a magical bag of ground cardamom.  Before diving into the hours of quizzing (and distracting) each other we eagerly scooped the spice into our coffee, took the first sip and for a moment melted into cardamom coffee heaven before the marathon began.
Now, a few months and fewer coffee's later, this spice is nothing but nice in so many countless ways.

A soothing and comforting food, cardamom is the perfect tummy tamer and should be at the top of the list of pantry staples for anyone with GP.  Known as the queen of spices, it has been around and used medicinally for 5,000 years.   Stimulating the parasympathetic nervous system, it helps to control digestion and saliva production. It is an anti-spasmodic and is recommended for nausea, chronic indigestion with bloating, belching, flatulence and hiccups. It is also an effective remedy for heartburn as it relieves pressure in the chest caused by swollen stomach pressing on the diaphragm.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Thank You Mom...AKA "Angel"

Today, after 2 extended flight changes, it finally came.  Tears slowly rolled down my cheeks as I watched the Airporter take my mom south to Seattle for her flight home to Kansas.
She flew in the night before my tube placement and stayed for 2 weeks as I struggled through the pain and complications that endeavered the necessary procedure to get me back on track.  There is nothing more comforting than a mother taking care of all of your needs during a time like this.  Her love and intuition is priceless.  I drew this picture of her and made a little art piece as a thank you gift.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Taping the Tube and Deep Breathing Continues

Great News:  The doctors called on Monday morning and decided that it would be better and obviously less invasive to continue to tape the tiniest of tiny hole in my tube instead of going back in and having it replaced.  Apparently, they had to remove the latex part of the tube due to an allergy that could have caused the hole, which inevetibly could happen again.  So, the journey continues, slowly and one day at a time.
I went to have acupuncture today and it did wonders for my anxiety.  The idea of this tube is a little overwhelming at times, as well as accepting my body not being able to do much for myself right now while I recover.  Luckily, I'm surrounded by support (husband and mother ESPECIALLY!) and don't know what I would do without everyone.  It can be hard to accept the help but learning to receive can be as great of a gift as giving, good for both the heart and soul.
That said, a technique I often turn to to reduce anxiety and bring myself to the present moment is called pranayama breathing (click for instructions).  According to Yoga Journal it has a  "mysterious power to soothe and revitalize a tired body, a flagging spirit, or a wild mind."  

Please share any techniques you have for dealing with anxiety during trying times!

Saturday, August 13, 2011

My Feeding "me magical and nourishing liquid sunshine" Tube

Well, after 2 months of trying everything I could to gain weight including medications, a botox treatment and multiple ways of taking in enough calories, I finally gave in and accepted that the feeding tube (G-J Tube) was the necessary next step.  I met with 3 doctors including my primary and GI in town as well as the GI at UW in Seattle.  All seemed to agree this was essential to at least get me back into a safe place with my weight.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Soothe Nausea with Ginger People!

As most of you probably know, ginger is a proven home remedy for nausea, vomiting and inflammation and a good friend to anyone with GP.  However, it can be so much more than just a cup of ginger tea, especially when there is a company like The Ginger People (GP!) that provide unlimited possibilities.  My favorite products include the ginger chews, crystallized ginger candy and chips, as well as the jarred organic minced and grated ginger, all conveniently ready for use.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Update: Treatment Plans

After two months of patiently waiting I finally got in to see a specialist at UW Medical Center in Seattle.  Though I have done extensive research myself on the limited treatments for gastroparesis I was really hoping they would have some ideas I hadn't yet heard of.  The doctor was very patient and kind, taking the time to absorb all my questions and concerns.  She then proceeded to go over her main concerns, being my weight, and treatment options.  There are basically two ways to approach this:

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Comforting Congee

This simple rice soup is easily digested and assimilated.  In China it is traditionally eaten as a breakfast food. Ingredients are chosen for their specific medicinal properties. The chicken and broth, for example, builds strength and are especially good for wasting illnessess and injuries. The ginger and cumin all boost flavor and aid digestion plus each offers other medicinal properties.
Congee is easy to make in a crock pot. Put up the soup before going to bed and awaken to this satisfying porridge.  Or, put it up before going to work and the soup will be ready when you come home.
*Note: Can also be made on the stove top.  Bring all ingredients to a simmer, cover and turn low for about an hour, making sure not to let it boil.

Acupuncture and GP

Acupuncture has been an essential part of maintaining my symptoms, particularly nausea and appetite.  I encourage anyone who has the option to do some research on a good practitioner in your area and give it a try.  Weekly visits could significantly improve not only symptoms but state of mind.  Often assosciated with gastroparesis is an increase in anxiety and depression as well as insomnia.  On treatment days I can eat more, have increase in energy and sleep better.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

A Prayer to Share

Today was a good day.  My sweet and firecracker of a neighbor June, 82 years young, can be often found strolling around the block passing out dog treats, hidden in the deep pockets of her sweater, and visiting with the neighbors.  Since I returned from school 2 weeks ago she has stopped by with a bundle of soft pink fresh cut flowers multiple times.  I'm not sure if she enjoys giving or my sudden weight loss and time at home brought her concern.  Whatever the reason, the cheery bouquets have brought a smile to my face every time along with her company, humor and kindness.

Friday, July 1, 2011

About Me Part I: Diagnostic Journey

I was diagnosed with gastroparesis in 2008.  I've suffered with digestive issues on and off  from the age of 19, shortly after undergoing laparoscopic surgery for endometriosis and ovarian cysts.  At the age of 28, after years of pain and discomfort, a gastric emptying test confirmed mild GP. 

Part II: A Passion Ignites But is Short-Lived

For many years I have been passionate about nutrition, healing and acupuncture.  After what I had gone through with the illness I felt a new spark light up in me.  Life is too short for regrets and I decided to pursue my dream of attending acupuncture school.  In the summer of 2010 I completed all my prerequisites and with the encouragement of family and friends I applied and got accepted to the program at Bastyr University.  

Part III: Reality Check, Grief and Acceptance

It has been 17 days since the botox treatment.  The first few were rough, still feeling full and nauseous.  Since then, I have been able to slowly increase meal portions in addition to drinking 1-2 supplemental shakes and a small amount of coconut milk ice cream in the evening, all high in calories and lactose-free.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011


First, I want to thank all of you who have been so supportive of me since being diagnosed. From love, prayer and kindness to cooking delicious meals I can eat and helping me research treatments. Reminding me to breathe, laugh and have fun with the things I can do, and most importantly to appreciate how much I still have to be thankful for.
A number of family and friends have been kind enough to also contribute a small donation to help with medical expenses since I will not be working (or living off school loans!) anytime in the near future. I am BEYOND grateful for these gifts and inspired to give as much as I can to keep the karma even!
From my heart, with gratitude and love,